THE VOICES OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES & LOCAL COMMUNITIES
WCS Conservation Hero: Ina Nisrina/Indonesia
December 1, 2022
OnDecember 26th, 2004, a deadly tsunami hit Indonesia — ravaging Aceh and sparking Ina Nisrina’s conservation journey. “Since that time, I always thought that one day, I’ll grow up to do something useful for Aceh because I have seen [with] my own eyes the impact of disaster — something that can happen anywhere, anytime again,” she says.
Ina wanted to ensure that the small archipelago would be prepared for another natural disaster, which becomes a growing concern as the climate changes. She moved to Jakarta, where she studied disaster management and worked for a disaster and climate change program with Mercy Corps Indonesia.
Ina wanted to ensure that the small archipelago would be prepared for another natural disaster, which becomes a growing concern as the climate changes.
Along the way, Ina told herself, “I will be back to Aceh, to work for Aceh, to do something for Aceh that is connected to climate change, disaster, and [the] environment.”
Ina returned to Aceh in 2018, just as she promised. She was working in disaster management for UNDP when she saw a job opening with WCS’s Marine Program in Aceh — Ina knew right away she wanted to apply. She quickly got the job as senior coordinator before being promoted to program manager.
Only two years later, she now supervises both the forest and marine programs of Aceh and North Sumatra. “Once I joined WCS, I tried to expand the partnership with the national team in Bogor, [and] find any opportunities [to] promote the Aceh program…because I want something big for Aceh,” she says.
Once again, Ina achieved exactly what she set out to do. In her short time working for WCS, she has significantly strengthened the team in Aceh — and she’s not the only one who recognizes the impact of their work. Many community members have shared their appreciation with Ina. “They told me about how thankful they are for WCS as we assist them to improve their economic income.”
Through business, safeguards, and gender equality workshops, the Aceh community has learned to come together as partners and improve its prospects. “They now can produce a beautiful package of salt fish [and] sell it to a modern market,” says Ina.
In her short time working for WCS, Ina has significantly strengthened the team in Aceh and many community members have shared their appreciation with Ina.
Aceh has received substantial humanitarian aid since the tsunami. However, individuals of the Indonesian province feel that WCS’s support stands out. “The communities and partners are happy with the WCS team and our approach,” says Nisrina. The Acehnese people know they have a seat at the table and feel “they could come to a meeting with their baby and husband and join together.”
One of the most positive changes the Aceh community has felt is a shift away from compressor fishing. Under this extremely dangerous yet popular practice, fishers dive deep into the ocean to catch fish with large nets. Air, along with toxic fumes from the compressor, is pumped to them through thin, plastic hoses.
Compressor fishing is life-threatening, bad for divers’ long-term health, and destructive to marine ecosystems. Ina says that family members of the fishermen that WCS has assisted are relieved that they now have alternative livelihoods. They no longer have to rely on a fatal fishing method to provide for their families.
While Ina now works farther afield at the provincial level, she knows the influence of her team’s work in Aceh. “I feel that all the energy we have spent [on] all the things we have done day and night has paid off,” she says. Just as Ina witnessed the tragedy of the 2004 tsunami, she has seen the resilience of the Aceh community.
They have shown that conservation is not something to limit life. Rather, “it’s more about protect[ing] their source of life, livelihood[s], and income.”
All photos courtesy of Ina Nisrina.